This November Austin ISD is putting their biggest bond package in the district’s history on the ballot for voters to decide. Many busy moms that I spoke with plan to vote, but acknowledged that they didn’t know much about the bond. One mom admitted she will rely on the recommendation from her campus teachers and leaders. Others said they are just starting to educate themselves. To kickstart their research, we gathered questions from 10 moms cross Austin to better understand how the bond will impact them whether they have kids in AISD or not.
Question & Answer 1
Submitted by Tamara Russell, mom of 1 child in AISD 6th Grade.
I am from New York state and I am not familiar with how Texas finances education. Can you explain what a bond is and why it is needed?
A school bond proposition is when a school district asks voters for permission to sell bonds to fund capital projects such as safety improvements, new facility construction and renovations, technology upgrades and other improvements. If the proposition passes, the district can sell bonds to investors to fund the projects and pay the bonds back over time, with interest.
The average age of our facilities is nearly 50 years old. In recent years, our normal operating budget, or general fund—which pays for things like salaries, utilities and supplies—has been used to pay for major repairs. We reserve a portion of our general fund for unexpected repairs, but funding major projects such as roofing, plumbing or HVAC repairs from the general fund reduces amounts available for other expenses, such as teacher salaries and academic programming.
Additionally, our bond dollars are not subject to the state’s recapture policy. For the 2020–21 school year, the state took more than 53% of the district’s maintenance tax collections in recapture payments. This means that when we pay for repairs out of our general fund, we only get 47 cents worth of repairs for each dollar. However, we keep every cent of our bond dollars, so they go twice as far.
Question & Answer 2
Submitted by Leslin Burns, mom of 2 children under age 4 and 1 child in AISD 1st Grade.
How will the bond impact moms of multiples like me with kids both in and out of AISD?
Every campus will benefit from the 2022 Bond so if you have students in elementary school now, they will see the improvements to middle and high schools when they reach those grade levels.
Implementation of the 2022 Bond Program will take place over about five to six years. The construction timeline is different for each project, but the goal is to deliver the first large project or modernization in August 2024. Safety and security projects will be prioritized, and several are expected to be completed as early as Fall 2023. Each project will have a set timeline based on complexity of the project, design duration, and construction duration. It is also important for us to gather school community input and schedule work around the school year to minimize disruptions and potential safety concerns for students.
Question & Answer 3
Submitted by MiShelle Edwards, Mom of 1 child under 4 (no children in AISD).
In preparation for the next generation, what college readiness programs and/or resources will the bond provide for students that aspire to attend college?
The 2022 Bond Program includes investments in Career and Technical Education spaces. CTE programs provide students with academic knowledge and technical skills to help them gain entry to high-skill, high-wage and high-demand industries. CTE space improvements will include Akins Early College High School, Clifton Career Development School, Delco Activity Center and Navarro Early College High School. Additionally, all modernized middle and high schools will receive CTE improvements. You can learn more about these improvements by watching the video below.
Question & Answer 4
Submitted by Leslie Jordan Garcia, mom of 1 child in AISD 4th Grade and 2 AISD graduates.
The last bond seemed to benefit richer areas. Will this bond be more equitable?
This bond package would deliver meaningful improvements across the district, but many of the biggest investments will be made in Title I schools, which would receive approximately 80% of the funding.
Many schools serving historically underserved communities have not benefited from the same funding as other schools in the past and therefore need more investment today. Our mission is to narrow achievement gaps among our student groups, and investing more resources in these campuses helps us get there.
Question & Answer 5
Submitted by Benee Brown, mom of 1 child in AISD 12th Grade and 1 AISD graduate.
I am a graduate of AISD and I benefited from being in a magnet program. What is in the bond to ensure that other minority kids continue to benefit from magnet programs and quality instruction?
We know our magnet schools benefit the students they serve, and it is an ongoing process to give students more equitable access to those programs. At the same time, our goal is for every one of our schools to have high-quality programming that allows students to explore their diverse interests and talents.
As improvements and repairs are made across the district through the 2022 Bond, we’ll begin to see some relief in our operating budget. This will help us achieve our goal of becoming the highest paying school district in Central Texas, which will help us attract and retain high-quality teachers.
Question & Answer 6
Submitted by Kelly Hochanadel, mom of 2 children who attend a public charter school (no children in AISD).
My kids attend a charter school outside of AISD. How will the bond impact my family?
Whether homeowners have children in Austin ISD they will still see a decrease in the tax rate this year. Austin ISD just lowered the school tax rate by 6.5 cents for the upcoming fiscal year and we anticipate lowering it another 3 cents next year.
The proposed bond package is expected to raise the debt service portion of the school tax rate by 1 cent per $100 in taxable value. However, Austin ISD has reduced the maintenance and operations portion of the school tax rate by 6.5 cents this year due to rising property values. This bond proposal will not affect the tax rate reduction this school year, and property owners are expected to see an additional estimated 3-cent reduction in the school tax rate next year, for a total reduction of 9.5 cents by 2023-34.
We also know that while there are families that may not currently have their kids in our schools, it’s common for families to transition to an Austin ISD school because of the variety of programs offered at our middle and high schools. Families can explore options at our upcoming Austin ISD Showcase from 9 a.m.–noon, Saturday, Oct. 22.
Question & Answer 7
Submitted by Mellisa Millo, mom of 1 child in AISD 3rd Grade and 1 child in AISD 6th Grade.
I want my kid(s) to be safe at school. Is there anything in the bond to address school safety?
The 2022 Bond Proposal prioritizes safety and security improvements across the district. If the bond passes, the district will be able use bond money to add a secure vestibule and entry point at every school. The 2022 Bond Program also includes funding for additional fencing and locks. You can learn more about the secure entry vestibules by watching the video below.
Question & Answer 8
Submitted by Marcella Brown, mom of at least one child in AISD.
This year my kid missed out on a special program because there were not enough students enrolled. Will there be anything in the bond to cover resources and ensure if enrollment fluctuates that kids still have opportunities for special programs?
The 2022 Bond Program was developed by working with the Bond Steering Committee. The BSC used the district’s Long-range Plans, Facility Condition Assessment and Educational Suitability Assessment scores, bond capacity, and other relevant information to create a recommended package for review by the superintendent and board of trustees. The final package was developed to strategically address some of the enrollment challenges the district faces through renovations and modernizations. Schools that were modernized through the 2017 Bond Program have seen an increase in enrollment.
It’s important to note that bond dollars can be used to pay for things like safety and security upgrades, school renovations and major repairs. Bonds cannot pay for teacher or staff salaries/raises, nor can they pay for utilities or programming.
The 2022 Bond does include investments in CTE, fine arts and athletic spaces as well as Special Education space inclusion improvements and musical instruments.
Question & Answer 9
Submitted by Stephanie Zuniga, mom 1 child in AISD 3rd Grade and 1 child in AISD 5th Grade.
A. Will the bond include teacher raises?
Bond money cannot be used directly to raise teacher pay. However, bond dollars can pay for large projects that significantly reduce the district’s maintenance and operating expenses, freeing up millions of dollars in our budget that can be used instead for things like increased salaries.
Projects funded by the Austin ISD 2017 Bond have lowered the district’s utility costs by $4 million annually, an amount equal to the salaries and benefits of 58 teachers.
How will the bond be spread across different schools within the district?
B. How will the bond be spread across different schools within the district?
Every school will benefit from the 2022 Bond through districtwide improvements like technology upgrades to support student learning and bus replacements. To view a breakdown of investments across the district you can view our interactive map.
Question & Answer 10
Submitted by Natalie Kifer, mom of 1 child in AISD 3rd Grade and 1 child in private school.
As a former teacher and realtor, I know how important this bond is for our schools and the health of our community. Unfortunately, many moms and high-profile community members aren’t aware of the bond. What can I do to help spread the word?
AISD is working diligently to educate the full community on the 2022 Bond, but we know we can’t reach everyone. We encourage you to share our bond website, AISDFuture.com, with friends and neighbors. The website contains a wide range of bond resources, including project summaries, fact sheets by campus, voting information and more.
In addition, there are upcoming 2022 Bond Community Conversations that everyone is invited to attend.
- Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 6pm – Zoom link: https://bit.ly/3R0TQOv
The community is also invited to stop by the 2022 Bond table at the Austin ISD Showcase on Oct. 22 at the Palmer Events Center.
“I’m excited about the pride that comes with our students running on new fields, playing in new gyms, walking into new classrooms, feeling air-conditioning…I think all of that brings about a sense of excitement for — not just me as the interim superintendent — but also for our students and our community.”- Interim Superintendent Dr. Anthony Mays